Punitive Damages

At McGuireWoods, we believe the best defense to punitive damages occurs before and at trial, not after it. Our lawyers have extensive experience defending—and, more importantly, defeating—punitive damages both as lead trial counsel, as well as national coordinating counsel working in partnership with trial counsel.

This experience includes over a decade as national punitive damages counsel to a Fortune 250 transportation company. In that role, we monitor and manage a diverse docket of punitive damages cases spanning the tort spectrum, from vehicular and pedestrian accidents to employment related suits to environmental litigation to claims for fraud and other intentional torts. We also work proactively to develop positive company narratives concerning activities frequently subject to litigation. In addition, we draw on our decades of Environmental, Products and Mass Tort Litigation, Trials, Commercial Litigation and Labor and Employment experience representing clients in high-stakes matters where claims for punitive damages are commonplace.

Lawsuits seeking punitive damages differ in critical ways from suits seeking compensatory damages only. Punitive damages claims frequently attack “the company’s conduct” at the most fundamental levels, and usually involve allegations of wrongdoing that go beyond the particular incident or incidents giving rise to suit.

All too often these distinctions are overlooked, and the evidence needed to rebut the broader allegations of corporate wrongdoing is not developed. Corporate depositions, inconvenient as they are, may go forward without adequate preparation, and without attention being given to the company’s own narrative. Opportunities for partial dismissal of punitive damages are often overlooked. Counsel may submit witness and exhibit lists without accounting for what is needed to establish the good company story and without preparing “face of the company” witnesses. Jury instructions can omit proper limits on evidence and other due process protections. At trial, critical objections to evidence may be missed and arguments as to the impropriety of punitive damages not raised. When the unthinkable happens—not only is the company found liable, the jury “checks the box” for punitive damages—it may be too late to fix, even with the assistance of skilled appellate counsel.

The risk posed by punitive damages is often higher than the underlying compensatory damages, and demands specialized attention by lawyers with experience defending and defeating such claims. Whether you need someone to take lead on a critical punitive damages case from the outset, parachute in on the eve of trial to try it, or partner with existing trial counsel to assist with discovery, pretrial, or trial practice, we have the knowledge, skills, and experience to get the job done. McGuireWoods is the right choice when punitive damages are at stake.

Team Leaders

Full Team
Back to top